Pick N Mix Practice

I've been using this method for some time now and it's fun, fluid and effective! The basic idea is that I write the name of an exercise or concept that I want to practice on a pick and I keep them all in a couple of Vegemite jars on my desk, and when it comes time for my Pick N Mix practice I grab a pick from the 'to do' jar and then when it's done I pop it in the 'done' jar!

I do 5 minutes on each exercise and I use it sometimes just as something quick to do when I have just a few minutes (like waiting for a video to import or something) but more commonly I aim to do 6 picks a day (30 mins).

So I have a bag of old promo picks (but any picks with a blank space to write on will do) and you'll need a permanent marker to write on them, and a container for them... pretty easy and a cool way to keep practice interesting and fresh.

I have about 30 in the jar right now, but it's very fluid - when I get bored of something or it doesn't feel relevant or I'm just not digging something, it goes in the holding box. I want it to be fun OR with a tangible benefit - so I do lots of fun things, but I also include thing like bending in tune which is a really important skill.

Here's a list of some of the 'picks' I'm working with at the start of 2019 (and a few that are in my on hold box) and a brief description. I will try and get lessons done on as many of these as I can this year. I've placed them into some general categories:

Just Super Useful

Playing Melodies: I imagine simple song melodies and try and play them in different parts of the neck instantly. The aim is to develop the relationship between my musical mind and my hands. Play What You Hear Lesson.

Bar Breaks: This is a function on my Time Trainer App where the click stops for alternate bars (or longer) and I have to maintain the groove and tempo. I often find myself rushing the beat so this is there to help combat that!

Quality Notes: I spend 5 minutes just really focus in on the quality of the notes I play. I just muck about and play anything at all - but with real care about the sound, the tone, the clarity of the notes and also explore finger placement, where I pick and the way the dynamics affect the note. Quality Control Exercise Lesson.

Technique Stuff

Bending In Tune: Just like it says - working on making sure that all my bends are in tune. String Bending Lesson.

Bend Exp.: Exp on a pick for me means EXPLORE and I like these - I just explore the idea and see what I can find that's new or exciting. The Exp picks are usually my favourites!

Vibrato: I just work on different types of vibrato - whatever grabs my fancy on the day!

Neck Vibrato: Pushing and Pulling the neck to get vibrato effect on chords. I just explore it.

Single String Picking: What it says on the tin - usually with a metronome, often thinking about keeping my hand and arm relaxed and exploring different techniques I encounter!

Economy Picking: It's never really been a strength for me, but I like to keep it in and explore short phases that use it that are working their way into my improvised playing.

Volume Swells: Using the volume to get a violin effect, play a note with the volume on 0 and then wind it up so you hear the note but without the pick attack!

Thumb Over Chords: I love exploring the extra digit - so I'm just exploring the idea and seeing what I can come up with!

Finger Tapping Exp.: I really like tapping as a fun technique though I rarely use it in improv, mainly because I think it sounds wrong in Blues! But this is there just because it's fun!

Octaves: Usually I play arpeggios, I love the sound and I love Wes Montgomery, so it's a technique I don't want to let slide.

String Skipping: Sometimes I use this as a kind of 'jamming with a broken string' thing, and sometimes I work on more technical stuff that skips a string - depends on my mood!

Dynamic Accents: Working on playing my scale patterns while making accents every x beats, great for pick control, and concentration! And helpful doing funny numbers like 7's or something... just messes with my head and I find that fun.

Hybrid Picking: As part of my drive to improve my technique, I've been checking out Martin Millers excellent hybrid picking and I'm trying to incorporate some of his ideas into my playing, I'll usually just explore one little idea or lick and see where it takes me.

Scale & Arpeggio Work

Maj Scale 5P: Revision and exploring the 5 patterns, usually with a metronome, sometimes picked, sometimes legato - just about really making sure the 5 shapes are clear and crisp in my mind. I also stay aware of the note function! Major Scale 5 Patterns Lesson.

Maj Scale 7P: As above but looking at the 3NPS system, something I'm just getting back in to, so some of this is slow, careful revision of patterns, sometimes it's bigger picture stuff or moving between patterns. 3NPS Major Scale Patterns Lessons.

ARP Maj 7: revising and exploring Maj 7 arpeggio patterns. 

ARP Min 7: revising and exploring Min 7 arpeggio patterns.

ARP 7: revising and exploring 7 arpeggio patterns. 

ARP Min7b5: revising and exploring Min7b5 arpeggio patterns. 

MMin 5P: Exploring and practice of the Melodic Minor Scale 5 Pattern system

MMin 7P: Exploring and practice of the Melodic Minor Scale 3NPS Pattern system

Time Work

Legato Timing 3: Working on my flow and timekeeping playing even triplets, not usually very fast, and making sure they are really in time and I'm not rushing or letting the patterns guide the way.

Legato Timing 4: As above but with 16th notes (4 notes per click)

Metronome Disappear: Set the volume of the metronome just right and you'll find if you play exactly in time that you don't hear the metronome but if you rush or drag you hear it again. It's a killer exercise! Disappearing Metronome Exercise Lesson.

Looper: Mainly this is not about getting creative, but making sure that my loops work well. I'm OK at it but sometimes my loops still jump and don't loop as smoothly as I'd like, so I'm working on that! But other times I've used the slot to get creative with it! How To Use A Looper Lesson.


Open G: I just have some fun exploring the tuning!

DADGAD: Again - just fun exploring the tuning - sometimes these sessions turn into song ideas.

One String Solos: Kinda takes the pressure off but also really makes you switch the ears on - especially on songs with changes (jazz standards).


Effective Practice